COUNT­ING TRAF­FIC IN A RE­TAIL STORE

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Hav­ing an ex­act count of the cus­tomers can bring enor­mous ben­e­fits to the re­tail busi­ness. Few of these ben­e­fits in­clude in­creased sales, and ac­cu­rate con­ver­sion rate mea­sure­ment. It also helps in know­ing the busiest time for store which fur­ther as­sists store man­age­ment to man­age their staff at that point of time as well as it drives ac­count­abil­ity which helps mea­sure the ef­fec­tive­ness of pro­mo­tions and mar­ket­ing strate­gies, re­sult­ing in know­ing the ac­tual sales con­ver­sion. Vi­jeta Gupta, a stu­dent of Mas­ter’s in Fash­ion Tech­nol­ogy, NIFT, Delhi dis­cusses the tech­nolo­gies avail­able for keep­ing count of the traf­fic in the re­tail stores.

Ac­cord­ing to a blog posted by the Con­trol Group, it was in the early ’70s when re­tail­ers started re­al­is­ing the im­por­tance of count­ing peo­ple vis­it­ing their stores. Dur­ing that time, a Cana­dian en­gi­neer came up with the idea of an out­fit­ted large box with an in­frared beam that could count ev­ery time some­one walked across it. Since then, there have been many tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments made in this field that have helped the re­tail­ers have bet­ter cus­tomer be­hav­iour un­der­stand­ing.

The ba­sic level of tech­nol­ogy avail­able for count­ing the vis­i­tors was the in­frared beam counter. This tech­nol­ogy emits hor­i­zon­tal in­frared beam be­tween the en­try door and when any per­son en­ters or ex­its the store, the beam gets in­ter­rupted and trans­mits that count to the re­ceiver. It is an in­ex­pen­sive and easy to in­stall method, which serves the pur­pose of small stand­alone stores. These wire­less sys­tems can be pow­ered with lithium bat­ter­ies and can work for years or even longer with­out any re­place­ment re­quired.

How­ever, the ma­jor dis­ad­van­tage that comes with this ba­sic level of tech­nol­ogy is the ac­cu­racy. These sys­tems can show in­ac­cu­rate count­ing in case of many peo­ple en­ter­ing the store at the same time. For ex­am­ple, in case of a wider en­trance when ten peo­ple are en­ter­ing the store at the same time, the counter may count only seven. These sys­tems are there­fore pre­ferred in smaller phys­i­cal stores with nar­rower en­trances. The max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency of this tech­nol­ogy has been seen in stores with nar­row en­trance. The ma­jor brands of the In­frared ( IR) based counter are Traf-Sys, SenSource.

Ow­ing to big re­tail­ers not get­ting any ad­van­tage out of the IR tech­nol­ogy, new al­ter­na­tive tech­nolo­gies were de­vel­oped such as ther­mal coun­ters which use ar­ray sen­sors that de­tect heat sources. These are over­head em­bed­ded sys­tems and use heat from the peo­ple body’s to count the num­ber of cus­tomers en­ter­ing the store. Few brands also have tech­nol­ogy for de­ter­min­ing the peo­ple en­ter­ing and leav­ing the store sep­a­rately. These sys­tems re­quire ca­ble con­nec­tion to power the sen­sor and give a high level of ac­cu­racy, mainly in the stores with bright light. They can be used in areas with wide en­trances, de­liv­er­ing a greater level of ac­cu­racy. How­ever these sys­tems have a few dis­ad­van­tages; one of them is dif­fi­culty in fig­ur­ing out what sort of in­di­vid­ual (grown-ups or young­sters) is shop­ping at the given time. More­over, it be­comes dif­fi­cult to ver­ify the ac­cu­racy of the counter, and also the ac­cu­racy of the sys­tem can be af­fected by the change in ther­mal con­di­tion in the am­bi­ence of the op­er­a­tion. The ma­jor brands pro­vid­ing ther­mal coun­ters are SenSource and Irisys.

There­fore, the video count­ing sys­tem was de­vel­oped to counter the chal­lenges of ther­mal counter.

Sup­pose, the busiest hour of a store is in the evening, then more num­ber of staff can be ap­pointed dur­ing that time, rather than in af­ter­noon and morn­ing. This will help in pro­vid­ing bet­ter cus­tomer ser­vice and greater at­ten­tion which will fur­ther lead to de­creased ex­pen­di­ture cost as it re­duces un­wanted num­ber of staff at a cer­tain time and will help in the bet­ter man­age­ment of the num­ber of staff.

This over­head mounted counter counts the num­ber of vis­i­tors that ven­ture into the store through a vir­tu­ally de­fin­able re­gion or line. The count­ing per­formed is gen­er­ally di­rec­tional and they op­er­ate in the re­gion with the best light­ing. Few of the sen­sors are able to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion of who is en­ter­ing when and where. They can han­dle wider areas with mul­ti­ple sys­tems be­ing in­stalled in dif­fer­ent re­gions. Some also have the abil­ity to fil­ter carts, chil­dren and strollers and there­fore pro­vide more ac­cu­rate data. The dis­ad­van­tage of these sys­tems is their sen­si­tiv­ity to the change in back­ground colour and fea­ture, which may re­sult in in­ac­cu­rate count. Lenses can be af­fected by dirt and dust af­fect­ing the vis­ual wave­length. Thus such a sys­tem re­quires pe­ri­odic clean­ing. These sys­tems are also sen­si­tive to light­ing level and may not func­tion be­low a cer­tain level of light. The ma­jor brands pro­vid­ing video peo­ple coun­ters are: Axis Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Honey­well So­lu­tions.

The Wi- Fi count­ing sys­tems can be used in cus­tomers’ smart­phones and do not have the prob­lem of sen­si­tiv­ity to light, un­like the video counter tech­nol­ogy. Ev­ery smart phone trans­mits Wi- Fi sig­nals ev­ery 2 to 8 sec­onds, even when they are not be­ing used. The sys­tem then col­lects all its Wi- Fi sig­nals in the range and de­tects all the smart­phones which are not logged in to the Wi- Fi net­work. The ad­van­tage of the sys­tem is that the de­vices can re­mem­ber who came be­fore and have en­tered again af­ter three months. The de­vice is use­ful in de­ter­min­ing how many of the vis­i­tors are re­turn­ing cus­tomers, how long did they stay in the store, how many passers-by were there in front of the store but did not en­ter the store.

More­over, the ad­di­tional fil­ter­ing al­go­rithm is used to fil­ter out the statis­tics, staff de­vices and can cor­rect any de­vi­a­tions and er­rors in the ob­ser­va­tions. The ma­jor brands pro­vid­ing Wi- Fi peo­ple counter are Traf-Sys and V- Count.

But all the above men­tioned tech­nolo­gies could not ful­fil the over­all de­mand of the re­tail­ers in the cur­rent sce­nario. For the best ac­cu­racy to beat the com­pe­ti­tion of the mar­ket, the re­tail­ers needed bet­ter tech­nol­ogy serv­ing the pur­pose of all. The CCTV ( Closed Cir­cuit Tele­vi­sion) peo­ple count­ing with video footage that com­bines the ben­e­fits of video count­ing and Wi- Fi count­ing sys­tem is the fi­nal an­swer to the re­tail­ers’ con­tin­u­ing cri­sis. In this tech­nol­ogy, the peo­ple counter is con­nected with the CCTV cam­era that tracks the move­ment of the peo­ple in the stores. They pro­vide high ac­cu­rate data as the sys­tems are en­abled with live video record­ing, which help in iden­ti­fy­ing the ac­cu­racy and au­then­tic­ity of the data. The sys­tem also records the video which can be used for fur­ther us­age. The ben­e­fit of the sys­tem is its ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion in wide area en­trances by con­nect­ing sev­eral cam­eras across the ceil­ing. The CCTV count­ing sys­tem ac­cu­rately de­tects and records the en­tries, exit and the wait­ing time, that helps de­ter­mine the time pe­riod for which the cus­tomer was there in the store and how of­ten the cus­tomer vis­ited the store. The ma­jor brands pro­vid­ing CCTV peo­ple count­ing tech­nol­ogy are Re­tail Sens­ing, ClearView Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Us­ing the ad­vanced level of tech­nol­ogy can help in a num­ber of fac­tors, the pri­mary ones be­ing the value for money and quick ROI ( Re­turn on In­vest­ment). The higher level of tech­nol­ogy gen­er­ally en­sures in­crease in con­ver­sion rate. Peo­ple count­ing data be­comes even more pow­er­ful when it is com­bined with other data sources, specif­i­cally Point Of Sale ( POS). With this com­bi­na­tion, the re­tail­ers can com­pute the con­ver­sion rate. With­out know­ing the vis­i­tors’ count, the re­tail­ers are miss­ing the com­plete pic­ture and are cal­cu­lat­ing based on their gut feel­ings. Peo­ple count­ing and con­ver­sion should be used to mea­sure store per­for­mance on an on­go­ing ba­sis to con­tin­u­ously iden­tify areas for im­prove­ment.

The above ta­ble shows the ac­cu­racy level cal­cu­la­tion.

[ The ac­cu­racy per­cent­age of Eco- counter ( IR based counter and Ther­mal Counter) is taken from the ar­ti­cle In­ves­ti­gat­ing the per­for­mance of au­to­matic count­ing sen­sor for pedes­trian traf­fic data col­lec­tion’ by Hong Yang I.e.;

and the ac­cu­racy per­cent­age of CCTV based cam­era has been taken from re­tail-sens­ing site

How a CCTV peo­ple count­ing sys­tem works, 2017’].

The in­for­ma­tion ac­cu­racy by the ad­vanced level (CCTV) tech­nol­ogy is high as com­pared to the other count­ing meth­ods which fur­ther re­sults in sub­se­quent ad­van­tages such as less in­ci­dents of theft in the re­tail stores, which pro­mo­tional strat­egy is get­ting more at­ten­tion from the vis­i­tors etc.

The CCTV count­ing sys­tem ac­cu­rately de­tects and records the en­tries, exit and the wait­ing time, that helps to de­ter­mine the time pe­riod for which the cus­tomer was there in the store and how of­ten the cus­tomer vis­ited the store.

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